Journal (travelog)

January 1, 2011 to January 13, 2012

Go Back to 2010

1/1/2011 to 3/4/2011
(Tampa FL)

Having said back in January that we were discontinuing our Travelog ("After Eleven Years It's Time to End the Travelog"), what's with this "Journal" thing?

Well, it's like this. We ourselves have used the Travelog extensively to go back and see: "Where did we spend Thanksgiving in 2004? When was it that we visited (whoever) in San Francisco? What year did we go to Quartzite?" etc. We can also look back and see how long it took us to travel from Point A to Point B, as well as how far was it between those two points. As the time for us to leave MacDill FamCamp draws closer we have become aware of the fact that we will no longer have that kind of information available to us unless we keep some other kind of record besides the Travelog. Then it becomes, if we are going to keep a record, why not just keep the Travelog? Also, as previously stated, it provides a way for our kids to see where we are and what we're up to—plus, it provides a place and a way to share some of our pictures with our kids, friends, and/or readers who might be interested. I should also mention that after we discontinued the Travelog we received a number of e-mails from readers who have followed our travels expressing disappointment that the Travelog was no longer going to be there. With all of that, there remains the fact that since we no longer travel as extensively as we used to, the "Travelog" has become more like a personal journal of, "What's going on with Sharyn and Phil" (not too interesting). Anyway, for all the reasons set forth above the previous practice will continue, but under the label of "Journal."

So what's been happening since the Travelog "ended" several months ago?

Sharyn continues to enjoy her line dancing twice a week (she says that's her favorite thing about coming here to MacDill). I have continued with the kayak and kayak fishing which I find I enjoy considerably, even though I'm not catching the big fish that are supposed to be throughout the Tampa Bays.

Sharyn also went to Zumba classes for about two weeks but decided that Zumba was really not for her or her body. I thought she should continue to go, but she thought otherwise.

We have been going out for lunch or dinner much more often than we have done in the past and while we enjoy the food and the eating out, that has brought about the necessity for dieting, which has been the name of the game for the last few weeks. Not too long ago we were at a rather dimly lit restaurant when a family of four sat at an adjacent table. Their little girl had an iPod kind of device that she was totally engrossed with. I happened to have my camera with me and managed to secretly capture her engrossed with, and illuminated by, her device.

It was probably back in mid-January that there was a big RV show at the State Fairgrounds in Tampa and the FamCamp office had free tickets. We went and walked for miles looking at all kinds of stuff ranging from LED bulbs for several dollars to a motorhome with a show price special of $1.2 million. Tiffin Motorhomes, the manufacturer of Allegro, also had a large display with all their new models, all of which, I think, we looked at. Throughout the entire show we did not see one thing that we needed or even wanted!

Several weeks ago we spoke with Peggy (of Ron and Peg), friends from Southold, Long Island, in the 70's, who have lived in Florida probably the last 30 years. It turned out that her granddaughter raises goats and was showing her goats at the Florida State Fair in Tampa that weekend. That was all we needed to go to the Fair. It was a fun day as we walked the fairgrounds, visited with Peggy, her daughter, her granddaughter, and all her goats (plus a lot of other goats). We now plan on stopping to see Ron and Peg when we pass through Northern Florida as we head north in several weeks.

Having installed a windshield shield back in December we were really impressed with the degree of glare reduction, plus the daytime privacy it gave us (you can see out, but can't see in). We have now upgraded our window shades. We got rid of the pleated window shades that have been pretty standard on RVs for many years and replaced them with dual day/night shades by MCD Innovations. They consist of an opaque pull down shade as well as a pull down sun screen that affords the same privacy and glare reduction as the windshield cover. These two improvements have greatly enhanced the privacy and comfort we enjoy in the motorhome.

Another change was when Sharyn changed all the pulls on the drawers and cabinet doors in the front part of the motorhome. They sure do look better. I could have lived in here for 100 years and would never have thought of changing them—it must be a mars vs venus thing.

About two weeks ago Sharyn and Diana dropped Carl, his friend Don, and myself at a kayak launch site on the Little Manatee River with our kayaks. While we paddled down the river they went shopping—wow, imagine that—picking us up some five miles down the river several hours later. At one point when we had stopped along the river bank to eat our lunch, several people who paddled by asked if we had seen the alligator. It seems that we were the only people on the river that day who did not see what was described as 6-7 foot alligator. I would like to have had the opportunity to photograph him.

A very cool thing that we just discovered is that most libraries now have digital e-books that you can download via your computer and read on your e-reader, in our case on our Kindles (actually if you do not have an e-reader you can read them on your computer, iPad, smart phone, etc). The usual checkout time seems to be 14 days, after which the book just disappears from your reader. I think that is very cool. The only problem is that the number of available books (licenses) is still somewhat limited. If a library only has one or two licenses they can only lend out one or two copies at a time. If the book you want is out you can put your name on a list and they will email you when it becomes available.

Two days ago was Sharyn's brother Allan's birthday so we drove down to Lehigh Acres to visit and take him out to lunch. While we there there he had a really nice metal sculpture of a bicycle planter. He told Sharyn she could have it if she wanted it. She said no, because she thought we had no way to carry it, and then no place to put it. I said we can fit it in the car and we'll find a place for it when we get somewhere. It is very nice. Thanks, Allan!

We had planned to leave here on Wednesday and go to Key West for several weeks, but it has gotten to be too late in the season and most of the people we know who were there are already slowly making their way north. Next year we'll plan it for January or February!

The line dancing is Sharyn's favorite thing about MacDill

We made this collage as an appreciation gift for the teacher from the group

This entrance to the mangroves has become my favorite fishing spot

Back home with all my paraphernalia on deck (definitely not a fishing kayak)

Little girl in restaurant

Peggy's daughter Sharon, Peggy, and "my" Sharyn, in the goat tent

Peggy's granddaughter Deanne with her 2nd place goat in this class

One of our new day/night shades that are now on all our windows

Two of our new pulls

Ready to launch into the Little Manatee River from under the US-301 highway bridge

Don and Carl moving down the river

We saw dozens of these guys but somehow missed the 6' alligator

Sharyn and her brother Allan

Allan gave us this full size bicycle sculpture

One of our two $4 bike stands

Odometer reading = 103,050
Miles for day = 0

3/5/2011 to 3/15/2011
(Tampa FL)

A week or so ago we had a visit from Bill and Connie, a couple I have know since I was a teenager, who we made contact with last winter after a hiatus of almost 40 years. I was really good to see them again, particularly since it was an all day visit that allowed for a great deal of conversation and time together, including lunch at the beach club.

We also had an all day visit from Irene and Harry who are on vacation from Jersey, visiting other friends across the bay in St Petersburg. As we travel back and forth from Virginia to Massachusetts we always stop and spend several days parked in their yard in Northern New Jersey, so we'll be seeing them again in a few weeks.

We went to Diana and Carl's to help celebrate Diana's (unnumbered) birthday. While we were there I borrowed Carl's aftermarket kayak seat back. Whenever I'm out fishing in the kayak my back begins to bother me because I can't lean back—there is no real back to the seat. That's not much of a problem when you are paddling since you are sitting up more straight and somewhat leaning forward. Just sitting there with a fishing pole, however, is somewhat different. Kayaks that are called "fishing kayaks" typically have some sort of seatback or backrest. Anyway, I used the seat back for about a week and it worked great. I goggled "Hobie kayak seat" and came up with a number of seats, mostly non-Hobies, and not the one Carl had. I ordered an Apex 1 Deluxe Kayak Seat from Amazon that looked very similar and had excellent reviews. When it arrived I didn't like it and sent it back. Carl then located an outfit in California,, that had his seat. Since we were leaving MacDill the next day, I called them and they sent the seat UPS 3 day delivery, to the FamCamp at Patrick AFB, where we were headed.

As the season winds down and the time to head north grows closer we both find ourselves feeling (and saying) that "summer is over." We find that to be pretty weird and attribute it to the fact that this year, as opposed to last year, we never experienced winter. We have been enjoying sunny days and temperatures in the 70's for such a prolonged period of time (wearing shorts and T-shirts every day), that our mindset never moved to into winter mode. Vacation is over and we now have to get ready to go back to work—doesn't that sound like "summer is over?"

Bill, Connie, and me

Me, Irene and Harry having lunch (with Sharyn) at Ballast Point Fishing Dock

Harry pays close attention as Sharyn speaks

These guys were keeping an eye on the people on the fishing dock

Downtown Tampa from Ballast Point (Harry liked this composition with the reflecting signs in the foreground)

A casual resident of MacDill AFB

Odometer reading = 103,050
Miles for day = 0

3/16/2011 to 3/20/2011
(Patrick AFB FL)

On our arrival here at Patrick we had to spend the first night in dry camp, but moved to a very nice partial site (no sewer) the following morning.

The following morning, being St. Patrick's Day, there were free coffee and donuts for all FamCampers. We had been kind of dieting, but I had a number of very good donuts (Sharyn remained good—she didn't have any).

One day we went to visit with Sharyn's sister Carolyn and her family where we stayed for dinner and lots of extended conversation. Two days later Sharyn went back and took her sister and her niece Sandy out for lunch—which also turned into a shopping trip. If I recall correctly, Sharyn also went shopping again the next day. I tell Sharyn that she is a "recreational shopper." She shops for fun ("shops" more than she "buys"), and then returns a lot of what she does buy.

I was really looking forward to our stay at Patrick because the FamCamp is right on the Banana River and I can just pull my kayak up on the beach and leave there with all my fishing stuff, etc. I ride my bike back and forth to and from our campsite (maybe 300 yards). That's about as convenient as it can get! It turns out there is one problem. I myself have no reason to believe that there are any fish in the Banana River—lots of porpoises, a good many turtles, but no signs of fish. I went out four time in three days, and except for one light hit, which caught me unexpectedly, there was nothing. Kind of disappointing. While the BX has a large section for fishing stuff, I have only seen one other guy fishing (Sharyn saw two). It has been explained to me that that is why it's called "fishing" and not "catching."

My kayak seat arrived on schedule and works great. Being able to lean back makes all the difference in the world.

It had been our plan to go to the Tiffin factory in Red Bay AL when we left here to have some things done to the motorhome. However, we called the factory on Friday and they told us that right now there is a 2-3 week wait to get into the shop. We scratched Alabama from our itinerary. Anyway, we'll be leaving here in the morning, heading north, but stopping to visit Ron and Peg, friends from our sailing days out on Eastern Long Island (who have now lived in Florida for some thirty odd years).

Our campsite

Our patio

Kayak (and bike) waiting on beach

Carl's kayak seat back jury rigged in kayak (no photo of mine which has been properly installed)

Odometer reading = 103,204
Miles for day = 154

3/21/2011 to 3/23/2011
(Umatilla FL)

We arrived at Ron and Peg's around lunchtime. Ron was just finishing his lunch and Peg was at the vet's with their dog. We pulled up next to the barn where we were able to hook up to water and electric (20 amps). We were also able to run our gray water out on the grass with a separate 5/8" hose that we carry just for that purpose. With all of that convenience we could have readily out stayed our welcome. It was not too long before Peggy returned and the four of us had a nice afternoon and evening catching up on all sorts of things.

It was nice being back on a farm again. I liked the barns, the sheds, the equipment, and the animals, but when I saw Peggy out there feeding the goats and the llama at seven in the morning, and then having to milk a mother and bottle feed two kids every night, I decided it was nice when we did it, but it's also nice not to have to do it now. Life comes and goes in stages.

For several years Sharyn has been wanting to check out "The Villages" as seen on TV. When Peggy mentioned that The Villages had every restaurant imaginable and was only 30 minutes away, Sharyn was all for checking it out. It was really quite a place—actually a complex of a lot of places. We went to what might be described as "the town square" in one of these places. There was dancing and music going on, as well as vendors selling all kinds of stuff (I think vendors are only on certain days), hundreds of golf carts (the primary means of transportation in and around The Villages), and what must have been thousands of people milling about the "town square" and surrounding streets and restaurants. It was probably about eight o'clock that we decided to eat, but found 20-30 minute waits at several restaurants. We left The Villages and ate at a small Italian restaurant on the way back to Ron and Peg's.

Ron and Peg say they'd like us to stop by again next year and we probably will.

All setup next to the barn

Ronnie & me — Sharyn says "two old guys reminiscing"

Dancing at "The Villages"

This one is for Jordan — a "Yankees" golf cart

You can put four of these in a parking space

One more golf cart picture

Peggy on her back patio

Peggy weighing her white wheat bread batter

As we are leaving Peggy wants us to take the cheese cake that never got eaten

Once Upon A Time — Block Island Race Week — 1975
For this day, Peggy, never shy, had arranged to sail with the Coast Guard Academy midshipmen aboard their boat, Kialoa II

Kialoa II

Ronnie rows Peggy from their boat to Kialoa II

Peggy, having boarded Kialoa II, gets her camera bag from Ron

Odometer reading = 103,321
Miles for day = 117

3/24/2011 to 3/26/2011
(Sumter SC)

The primary reason we were going to the factory in Red Bay AL was to have the dashboard heat/air conditioner fixed. The system is totally dead, no heat, no a/c, no fan—it's as if there was a blown fuse, only that's not the problem. Anyway, without the air conditioning, the drive from Umatilla to Shaw AFB was rather warm and somewhat uncomfortable. Leaving the driver's window open resulted in some pretty extensive road noise on I-95. I think it was about six o'clock when we got here and got ourselves all set up.

The next morning I took the car to the Ford dealer in Sumter (the motorhome is built on a Ford chassis) to inquire if they thought they could find the problem with the air conditioner. The difficulty is that some of the system, compressor, belts, etc., are part of Ford, whereas the stuff in the dashboard is Tiffin. The wiring is probably an indecipherable mix! Anyway, on Tuesday morning they are going to see what they can do.

For now it's pouring down rain with intermittent thunder and lightening. The real problem is that we a scheduled to leave here on Friday and this weather is supposed to continue through Friday. Today is only Saturday! Maybe the weather people will be wrong.

Odometer reading = 103,735
Miles for day = 413

3/27/2011 to 3/30/2011
(Sumter SC)

The night before I took the motorhome in to Ford I asked Sharyn if she thought they would be able to fix the air conditioning. She said she did not, and unfortunately, I didn't either. I said I felt that this was all going to be a waste of time. We are both delighted to have been wrong. Brent Lyon, a young tech, at McLaughlin Ford tracked down the problem—a bad relay behind the panel in front of the passenger seat. It took a while to track down the problem, including at least one phone conversation with a tech guy at Tiffin in Alabama. One interesting thing discovered was that the dashboard switches do not supply 12 volts to the system. The 12 volts are already there; the switches complete the circuits by providing the ground. Anyway, however it works, now it does work, and having the ability to control the heating and air conditioning when we are on the road will be very nice.

As has become our habit when we spend any time in Sumter, we arranged to have lunch with my cousin Bobby, and his wife Teresa, in Florence. Unfortunately Teresa had fallen ill and was not able to be with us. By the time she realized she was not going to be able to go, we were already on our way to Florence so Bobby met us by himself. We ate at the newly opened Hibachi Grill and Buffet. The food was very good, and the choices were extensive. So good, in fact that, several days later, when we saw there was a Hibachi Grill and Buffet in Sumter, we went there for dinner. Bobby ended up taking Teresa to the doctor when he returned home. It turned out she had strep throat, but with medication, was feeling considerably better the following day.

Separate and apart from all of that, the name of the game has been rain and more rain, and quite cold. The day we met Bobby in Florence it was cold and rainy and the temperature never got out of the 40's. It was not raining on the day we got here, and it did not rain the day we took the motorhome to Ford, but it has rained every other day, complete wit thunderstorms, frequent lightening, etc. Looking for some kind of escape from this relentless rain we talked about leaving here early and heading north but it seems that this is a very widespread system with rain and sever weather stretching from the Florida Panhandle all the way up through the Mid-Atlantic, including Louisa VA. Cabin fever is beginning to kick in!

Anyway, it is still our plan, rain, snow, tornadoes, or whatever, to leave here on Friday, April 1. We'll see if it really happens.

Odometer reading = 103,759
Miles for day = 25

3/31/2011 to 4/2/2011
(Louisa VA)

Well, it was Thursday morning and we were sitting around in the motorhome, still at Shaw AFB FamCamp, watching the rain come down. We decided that since we were leaving the following morning, why not just leave now, drive part way to Virginia, spend the night at a Walmart, and then continue the rest of the way on Friday, surprising Jordan by arriving mid-morning. At the same time that would avoid the long "drive all day" aspect of the trip.

That's what we did—sort of. When a break in the rain came we loaded the kayaks, hooked up the car, and took off. Taking several coffee breaks (with our Christmas Keurig) along the way, we drove straight through, arriving at Jordan's around nine o'clock. She said she had given thought to the possibility that we would arrive early, but was surprised nonetheless.

Anyway, last night Phil and his family came by and we all had an impromptu dinner in the motorhome, all seven of us! Katlin's high school prom is coming up, and as I write this, Sharyn, Kim, Katlin, and Jordan, are all out shopping for the "perfect" prom dress.

Having filled the gas tank upon our arrival at Shaw AFB, we filled it again in Short Pump VA (about 40 miles from Louisa and the cheapest gas around) on the theory that the price will probably increase substantially between now and when we leave here. It took 60.69 gallons at a cost of $212.39. That works out to 6.46 miles per gallon at 54.18¢ per mile! I'm actually surprised at that mileage figure as our overall mileage, for the last 100,000 miles, is 7.77 miles per gallon and has varied very little.

Odometer reading = 104,157
Miles for day = 398

4/3/2011 to 4/20/2011
(Louisa VA)

For the last 2½ weeks we've been parked on the slab in Jordan's yard doing some general housekeeping, cleaning out and somewhat organizing the basement compartments under the motorhome, etc. Sharyn certainly finds more to do along these lines than I do. Part of the reason for that might be that I can be content to just sit and watch the (Fox) news or be on my computer. Sharyn, on the other hand, while she enjoys reading, cannot "just sit" for too long before she begins to go crazy. She even took to cleaning out and organizing stuff in the storage sheds—something I dread even thinking about! At Jordan's request I more substantially enclosed the area under the porch where Jill, her dog, had managed to tear out some lattice work to gain access to under the porch. I also changed the oil and filters in both the car and the motorhome. I briefly considered, but soon decided not to take the car to Jiffy Lube to let them change the oil. That would have only been the second time in my life that I would not have changed my own oil. I decided it was too much like surrendering to the aging process.

One of the things that Sharyn does enjoy this time of year is working in the yard. Since a motorhome has a rather small "yard," and one that is here today and somewhere else tomorrow, it does not lend itself too much to yard work, particularly yard work having to do with plants and flowers. While we've been here Sharyn has made several (numerous) trips to Lowes for various plants, paving stones, and other garden related stuff which she has put around the house. It's all very worthwhile because she enjoys it, plus it makes the place look better.

It was about ten years ago that we bought two 10' Pungo's, kayaks made by Wilderness Systems, that we carried on top of the car until about four years ago when we came to the conclusion that we were really not using them as much as we had previously. Since that time they have been sitting out in Jordan's back yard. Last summer, not too long after I bought myself a touring kayak, a 17'4" Dagger Atlantis, I told Sharyn she should have a touring kayak also, that she would really enjoy it. She did not have too much interest, but we bought her one anyway, a 16'8" Perception Shadow. She has only used it twice and says she much prefers her old Pungo. Anyway, we have now cleaned four years worth of accumulated dirt, mildew, and tree sap off of both Pungos, and will be taking Sharyn's with us as we get ready to leave for Hansom AFB. Several weeks ago we put her Perception up for Sale on Craig's List but only had one inquiry. There is a much bigger/better market for kayaks in the Bedford MA area, so we will put it on Craig's List up there when we get there. In the meanwhile we are taking three kayaks with us which is a little bit much. We have the two touring kayaks on the roof racks and plan on putting the Pungo into the Honda through the rear window (it will stick out quite a bit).

This past winter I kind of got the fishing bug (after a 40 year hiatus) fishing from my kayak in the waters of Tampa Bay surrounding MacDill AFB. Last summer when I kayaked the Sudbury/Concord/Assabet Rivers there were lots of guys fishing. From reading forums I see that the Sudbury and Concord Rivers have a good number of bass. In fact, several bass tournaments take place on those rivers. Long story short, not knowing anything about fresh water fishing (having grown up on the Long Island Sound) I asked Phil if he would go with me to BassPro Shop to point me in the right direction for a better rod and reel appropriate for bass and other fresh water river fishing. Phil, Sharyn, Jordan, and myself all went one evening last week. Phil and I each bought a bunch of stuff, and then we all had dinner in the BassPro Shop restaurant. A was a very enjoyable family evening out—something we should try to do more often.

Last night Phil, Kim, Katlin, and little Philip all came for dinner and to say goodby before we leave. Shane could not be here last night, so tonight we, along with Jordan, are going to meet him and Cindy, in town, for dinner. Since the Pungo will take up the entire interior of the Honda we will have to wait until tomorrow morning to put it into the car and fasten it down in such a way that it neither goes through the front windshield nor slides out the back window. Other than that we hope to get a reasonably early start to Boonton NJ where we will spend several days with Irene and Harry.

If my mother, who died of breast cancer in 1966, were alive today, this would be her 100th birthday. Happy birthday Mom!

Sharyn doing her planting

Kayak cleaning day

Two Pungos—before and after cleaning

Me with new shirt—gift from my almost son-in-law

View over rear fence of horse farm behind Jordan's house

Odometer reading = 104,157
Miles for day = 0

4/21/2011 to 4/24/2011
(Boonton NJ)

It was a non-eventful trip to Harry and Irene's, and we arrived about nine hours after we left Jordan's. We had not planned on staying for Easter, but when Irene finished talking with Sharyn it had been decided. As always we had a very enjoyable visit that culminated with Easter dinner. We were joined by Harry and Irene's three sons, with their wives and the six grandchildren that accompanied them. All were present for the egg hunt, Easter presents, and copious amounts of good food.

With full bellies and three pounds heavier, we plan to leave here in the morning on our final leg to Hanscom AFB.

While Harry and Irene are at mass Sharyn reads by the pond while soaking up the sun

Odometer reading = 104,545
Miles for day = 387

(Bedford MA)

While almost all of our travel days are uneventful today's trip could have been a real disaster. We had crossed the Hudson River via the Tappan Zee Bridge and continued several miles on I-287 to the point where we exited onto the multi-lane ramp for I-684. Everything was going well and I was feeling good about our progress when suddenly the engine shut off, a number of things "beeped," the dash panel went blank, and traveling in the center lane at maybe 30-40 mph we lost power steering and all braking. Luckily we were on a slight upgrade and the motorhome slowed down quite rapidly. I tried to coast to the left shoulder but we came to a stop kind of crosswise in the left lane. Another bit of luck was that within a minute or two a highway department truck pulled up behind us and turned on all his flashing yellow lights. Sharyn got in the Honda and with that little four cylinder engine was able to push the motorhome perhaps 100 feet up the ramp until we had the motorhome out of the travel lane and onto the shoulder.

Since everything electrical had died simultaneously with the engine, the batteries seemed to be a good first place to look. Checking the ground cable on the chassis battery showed it to be loose on the terminal, resulting in lots of arcing, and at the same time lots of clicking sounds as numerous electrical components clicked on and off as I wiggled the cable. Tightening the cable clamp with a wrench fixed everything and within 10 minutes from the time we lost power we pulled back out onto the roadway.

As we continued on we talked about how at another point or place in time the outcome could have been so different. A 65 mph+ downgrade, approaching a toll booth, going through a construction area—any of those situations could have made this lose of everything a lethal event, both for us and others. It seems like a disproportionate amount of consequence from a loose battery cable!

Anyway, we pulled into the FamCamp at Hanscom without any further problem. While this travel day did turn out okay, it certainly could have been different. We were very lucky.

Odometer reading = 104,787
Miles for day = 242

4/26/11 to 5/11/11
(Bedford MA)

Unbeknown to Irene and Harry, their son's had planned a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party to take place on April 30, so it was only a few days after we arrived here at Hanscom FamCamp that we turned around and went back to Jersey. It was a great event and a total surprise to Irene and Harry.

From the party we drove all the way down to Moorestown NJ, across the river from Philadelphia, to look at and buy a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140, a fishing kayak I had seen on Craig's list. We never would have considered driving that far to look at a kayak had it not been for the fact that I knew we were going to be near Morristown NJ when I initially contacted "Jake," the seller via e-mail. I had read "Moorestown" and thought it said Morristown, right where we were going to be. We had sort of made the deal when I asked Jake to call me to see if he could not drive up and meet us part way between the two "M" towns. In response, I received a telephone call from Jake's grandmother to tell me that Jake could not drive anywhere as Jake was only 14 years old. Anyway, it was a perfect deal (I had a "Want to Buy" listing for that exact kayak on the Boston area Craig's List). It was a 2010 model he just bought last summer and it looked as if it had just come from the dealers show room. The only downside was that it was a long way back to Hanscom and we didn't get home until 2:45 in the morning (it was an 800 mile day). Nevertheless, we were in the office and open for the first day of the season at 8:30 that morning.

For over a week there has been a big low pressure system stuck off of the New England coast bringing nothing but cold, wet, and windy conditions to this area. One day, actually Sharyn's birthday, it got semi-nice (not too nice) and I took the kayak and some fishing stuff down to the Concord River to try it all out. I didn't catch anything, but that was largely because I only stayed out for an hour and spent most of that time playing with the fish finder (an extra that Jake had added), eating my lunch, and just drifting on the river. I did some casting with my new rod and reel, but for the most part it was just checking stuff out.

For Sharyn's birthday she wanted to check out and have dinner at Waxy's Irish Pub and Restaurant, a newly opened sports bar just outside the base. The food was very good and we'll definitely go there again in spite of the loud noise level. I asked the waitress if it was always that loud and she said "it gets louder." Five days after her birthday it was Mother's Day when we had dinner at The Great Wall, the nearby Chinese restaurant where we eat fairly often. The food is very acceptable, if not outstanding, but being only two miles from the FamCamp it's quite convenient. Sharyn said her preference would have been Luigi's, but that the Mother's Day wait time would have been excessive.

Yesterday an today (Tuesday and Wednesday) are our days off and the cold, wet weather has still not relented. My sister, who lives in Portsmouth NH, had to go down to Long Island today and Sharyn went along for the ride. My sister will drop Sharyn off in Greenport where she can then take the Shelter Island Ferry and walk up the hill to our son's pharmacy. The pharmacy has an old fashioned soda/lunch fountain so she can have lunch (for free) and visit with Greg at the same time. It should be a nice day for her. I had hoped to go fishing but the weather kind of put a damper on that idea.

Some day the sun will shine again!

Seeing everyone, and realizing what's happening, Harry smiles while Irene cries

Harry and Irene with remnants of the original wedding party

Tarpon 140 on the Concord River

New rod in one of the Scotty rod holders

Delicious edible arrangement Greg and Paulette sent Sharyn for her birthday

Sharyn caught this C-17 taking off (to appreciate the scale look at the cockpit windows)

Odometer reading = 104,787
Miles for day = 0

5/12/11 to 7/2/11
(Bedford MA)

For someone who has difficulty remembering what has transpired in the last 24 hours, trying to recall events of the last seven weeks is basically a futile attempt. If I have alluded to this problem in the past, let me say that it is a condition that does not improve with the passage of time. That having been said, here is what I remember:

On May 21 our grandson Scott graduated from St. Anselm's College in New Hampshire. We drove up to Manchester NH to witness the event and participate in the occasion, as did his parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Following the graduation ceremonies, all of us went to a nearby restaurant for a prolonged party/dinner/celebration. Congratulations Scott!

Two weeks later, on June 3, our granddaughter Katlin graduated high school back in Virginia. We flew to Virginia for the celebration, where we stayed with Jordan for several days. Having taken nursing related courses while still in high school, Katlin is now working as a certified nurse assistant in the Alzheimers/dementia unit at an assisted living facility.

The day after Katlin's graduation there was a 5K run just south of Charlottesville VA to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. Jordan, Phil, and Kim, along with nearly 1,000 other runners participated. Sponsored by the University of Virginia and the Charlottesville Running Company, the event raised a little over $70,000.

On June 1 areas of Massachusetts, particularly Springfield, were hit by a series of devastating tornadoes. The first cell to pass over Springfield, subsequently, much to our relief, passed just south of Hanscom AFB, but apparently spawned no more tornadoes after Springfield. It got to Boston a few minutes later (it was dark by then) and the sky looked like from a World War II movie with incredible flashes of lightening that continued unabated for perhaps 15 minutes. We had never seen anything like it. One usually describes such lightening as having so many seconds between flashes. This would have to be described as how many flashes per second, except that you could not count them. It was a continuation of multiple rapid series of flashes, the newest always overlapping the last with no time for darkness between flashes. An amazing display.

At this point I have had the opportunity to go fishing four or five times with my new kayak. I've tried both the Concord and Assabet Rivers and have not yet caught anything. I tend to think that the reason is that this stuff you hear about fresh water fish is nothing more than a myth — there is no such thing!

The day before my birthday we had a Pot Luck "Mexican Style" here at the FamCamp (we try to have some kind of event about every three weeks). When Sharyn brought out the cake, it was a birthday cake for me and everyone sang Happy Birthday. That was very nice, and certainly a surprise for me.

Several weeks ago I took notice of a robin's nest on the window sill just outside the FamCamp men's room and took a series of pictures over a period of 17 days. To take these pictures I had to stand on a bench that sits in the men's room just under the window. The mother robin would not come to the nest if she saw me, so I had to turn out the lights and sort of hide behind the corner of the window to get her picture. On June 29, when I was taking the last picture there were only two "fully feathered" babies left in the nest. As my head and camera came up to the window one of them flew away. The last remaining baby, the one that is in the final picture, flew away the instant the shutter clicked.

Unfortunately, all was not happiness and fun. Some five years ago Jordan got Jill, a beautiful six year old German Shepherd, from the Virginia German Shepard Rescue organization. There was never any mistaking the fact that Jill was Jordan's dog, and that Jordan was Jill's person. It was probably about a year ago that Jill began to slow down; she appeared to be having some kind of problem with her hind legs. It turned out that she had degenerative myelopathy, a degenerative disease of the spinal cord. After a number of months of gradual decline, the disease seemed to suddenly accelerate in the last few weeks, and then more rapidly for several days. By last weekend Jill could no longer walk, and on Monday morning Jordan took her to the vet for the last time. It was a very sad time for all of us. Some times there is just nothing you can do.

Scott with Greg and Paulette and his brother "PJ"

Katlin with cap and gown

Katlin's graduation party (the "outside" contingent)

Phil, Kim, and Jordan shortly before the Wounded Warrior run

The start

Looking back towards Springfield just after sunset (night of the tornadoes)

My surprise birthday cake

Bird nest on June 12

Bird nest on June 19

Bird nest on June 24

Bird nest on June 29

Jill (Photo taken September 4, 2010)

Odometer reading = 104,787
Miles for day = 0

7/3/2011 to 11/1/2011
(Bedford MA)

As I sit here on Thanksgiving night at MacDill AFB FamCamp in Tampa, trying to reconstruct everything that has happened since July 2, I am thinking that this Travelog/Journal, or whatever I decide to call it, may be approaching its final end.

Throughout the summer we had our usual FamCamp activities; barbecues, pot lucks, Sam Adams beer tasting, etc. We also had several organized canoe/kayak trips on the Concord River. On one occasion we had so many people sign up that we did not have enough canoes or kayaks and had to run two trips on two consecutive days.

Hanscom FamCampers, through voluntary contributions, were able to purchase a replica of the "Star Spangled Banner Flag" of 15 stars and 15 stripes (the flag that, during the War of 1812, inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner) to be put on display at the Hall of Flags at the Sigsbee Charter School at the Key West Naval Air Station. After the flag was purchased it was flown at the FamCamp for ten days before, through the efforts of retired Navy Master Chief James King, it was flown from the USS Constitution, a U.S. Navy warship on active duty in Boston Harbor. After that it went to the Hall of Flags where it will be on display on permanent loan from Hanscom FamCamp.

Jordan flew up to spend several days with us which we thoroughly enjoyed. One day, while Sharyn covered the office, Jordan and I went into Boston to visit the USS Constitution, a/k/a "Old Ironsides." walk around Boston, have lunch, and pretty much have a very pleasant father/daughter day.

The tornadoes that cut across Massachusetts back in June turned out to be only the first of a series of unusual events to visit this summer. They were followed by Hurricane Irene, an earthquake, and finally a snow storm that brought down trees and power lines leaving the FamCamp without power (read heat) for 48 hours while the temperature dropped into the mid-20's.

Odometer reading = 104,787
Miles for day = 0

(Chambersburg PA)

Having prepared yesterday for an early departure this morning, it was pretty much just bring in the slides, say goodby, and go.

Sharyn has never liked traveling I-95 between the southern end of the Jersey Turnpike and Richmond, so for the last several years we have been taking US-301 instead. I don't like US-301 because there are sections full of traffic lights and slow moving traffic. This time we compromised and from Northern Jersey took I-78 west to I-81. After passing through a section of rather steep hills as we transitioned from Jersey to Pennsylvania it was clear and easy driving to Chambersburg where we spent the night at Walmart.

Odometer reading = 105,236
Miles for day = 446

11/3/2011 to 11/8/2011
(Louisa VA)


Odometer reading = 105,448
Miles for day = 212

11/9/2011 to 1/13/2012
(Louisa VA and Tampa FL)

We left Louisa on November 9 and, after spending on night at Walmart in Savannah, we continued on to the FamCamp at MacDill AFB in Tampa. For Christmas we drove the car back to Virginia where we spent about ten days before returning to MacDill. We plan on staying here until the end of March when we'll begin moving north so as to arrive back in Massachusetts in time to open the FamCamp at Hanscom on May 1, 2012.

Odometer reading = 106,307
Miles for day = 344

The previous paragraph represents the end of this Travelog/Journal. It was a year ago that we first decided that our Travelog had run its course (see: After Eleven Years It's Time to End the Travelog ). We subsequently changed our minds and decided to continue with what we called a "Journal." The fact of the matter is that it just does not work. For the reasons set forth in After Eleven Years It's Time to End the Travelog this is the final end. Thanks to all for following us for all of these years.

Sharyn & Phil




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Complete Travelog February 2000 through December 31, 2010
(This is a big file, probably not suitable for download via dialup connection)